Doctors Without Borders Marks Six Months Since Deadly Attack on its Hospital in Afghanistan

Valérie Batselaere/MSF
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NEW YORK/BRUSSELS, APRIL 5, 2016 —To mark six months since the deadly attack on its hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF) released first-hand accounts and video testimonies of staff and patients who survived the bombing.

In the testimonies released this week and published on Medium, an Australian intensive care doctor and a surgeon from the Philippines describe the vital medical care provided at the hospital, the events that unfolded during the week of intense fighting leading up to the attack, and the harrowing night of the bombing. 

The October 3, 2015 bombing of the MSF trauma hospital in Kunduz killed 42 people, including 14 MSF staff members, 24 patients and four caretakers. The facility, which was completely destroyed in the bombing, was a fully functioning hospital at the time of the attack.

“The deaths of our colleagues and patients and the destruction of the only trauma hospital in the region, were tremendous losses for MSF and the community in Kunduz,” said Jason Cone, executive director of MSF USA. “We wanted to mark this solemn date by providing a glimpse into the lives of the people lost and those left behind, and by showing some of the lifesaving work we performed before the bombing. Six months later, we continue to mourn our colleagues and patients. The hospital remains closed until further notice, leaving thousands of people without vital medical services.”

Further capturing the devastation are video testimonies from an MSF staff member from Kunduz who walks through the destroyed hospital and describes the scene of the attack, and an interview with the family of the only patient in the intensive care unit to survive the attack -- a three-year-old girl named Shaista.

Since 2011, the hospital had been providing free, high-quality surgical care to victims of general trauma, such as traffic accidents, as well as to patients suffering from conflict-related injuries. It was the only facility of its kind in the whole north-eastern region of Afghanistan and offered services to the residents of Kunduz Province as well as to people from neighboring provinces.

MSF has not yet decided whether to re-open the trauma hospital in Kunduz. Such a decision can only be taken after obtaining clear reassurances from all parties to the conflict that staff, patients and medical facilities will be safe from attack. “We need to know that the work of our doctors, nurses and other staff will be fully respected in Kunduz and in all places where we work in Afghanistan,” said Cone. “We need assurances that we can work according to our core principles and to international humanitarian law: namely, that we can safely treat all people in need, no matter who they are, or for which side they may fight. Our ability to run hospitals on the frontline in Afghanistan and in conflict zones everywhere depends on the reaffirmation of these fundamental principles.”

Read Key MSF Articles, Statements, and Reports on Kunduz